When the doors to Shepherds HOPE opened in 2009, there were 3 drug houses on the street and violence was almost a daily occurrence; that is no longer the case. From the beginning Brian realized it was not just about the food, but about establishing relationships that lead to personal and community transformation. The guests are treated as real people with respect and dignity. Typically they will be greeted as they wait in line by one of our leaders whose primary goal is to hear their stories, show concern and share the hope Christ can bring to their lives. Over time incredible relationships have been built and people return not just for the food but to find help for the struggles they face every day. The pantry has become a safe haven and children regularly stop in after school to show homework, get a treat and simply feel loved.
Shepherd’s HOPE has only one full-time paid staff person; 90% of the volunteers come right out of the neighborhood. (Many of those volunteers were among the troublemakers when the pantry first opened.) An attitude of mutual respect and positive behavior is encouraged and now the volunteers and guests even monitor those qualities among themselves when someone forgets or a new person arrives.
A specific example of change occurred November 22, 2012 when the bags of food for Thanksgiving Dinner were distributed. People began to arrive at the pantry at 6:30 am and waited patiently in a line during a 40 degree rain storm. The line extended all the way to 57th street (about ¾ of a city block – more than 350 people) by the time the food distribution began at 9:00 am. Brian walked the line and greeted each neighbor with a Happy Thanksgiving, a hug and a blessing from God. Each person returned the hug with their own gratitude and blessing. This was an unbelievable transformation from previous years. Moreover, the servant hearts of the community volunteers who also warmly greeted their neighbors throughout the day in the challenging weather were an inspiration to all. Today the neighborhood around Shepherds HOPE is a much safer and more compassionate community!